For my mother, Anne
I would like to start by gratefully acknowledging Linda Cashdan of The Word Process. Linda proved almost prescient in her advice; even the suggestions I didn’t take were later recommended by my publisher and ultimately found their way into the book. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Special thanks go to Mark A. Jones of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, who was extremely generous with his time and knowledge; to Officer Rodney Parks of the D.C. Metro Police Department, for all of his insight; and to Erika Lease, M.D., for her wisdom and, more importantly, her friendship.
My heartfelt appreciation goes out to the talented team of professionals at Kensington: Steven Zacharius, the president and CEO, Laurie Parkin, Michaela Hamilton, and Wendy Bernhardt. I am also eternally grateful to my editor, Audrey LaFehr, for her boundless support and enthusiasm.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my literary agent, Nancy Coffey, who believed in this novel from the start.
And to Jeralyn Valdillez, for supporting me when the only thing I was writing was research papers.
CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE
WASHINGTON, D.C. • CAPE ELIZABETH
BROOKS COUNTY, GEORGIA
LANGLEY • NORFOLK, VIRGINIA
IRAN • NORFOLK
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
IRAN • CAPE TOWN
TAJIKISTAN • CAPE TOWN • PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA
TAJIKISTAN • PRETORIA
PRETORIA • TAJIKISTAN • LANGLEY
ASHLAND, VIRGINIA • WASHINGTON, D.C.
NORFOLK • WASHINGTON, D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. • HANOVER COUNTY, VIRGINIA
WASHINGTON, D.C. • LANGLEY
HANOVER COUNTY • LANGLEY • WASHINGTON, D.C.
TYSON’S CORNER, VIRGINIA• CAPE ELIZABETH • HANOVER COUNTY
TYSON’S CORNER • HANOVER COUNTY
TYSON’S CORNER, VIRGINIA
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA • HANOVER COUNTY
TYSON’S CORNER • HANOVER COUNTY • WASHINGTON, D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. • ASHLAND
LANGLEY • CAPE ELIZABETH
CAPE ELIZABETH • WASHINGTON, D.C.
They whispered amongst themselves. For an announcement of lesser magnitude, they said, it might have been a more suitable venue.
It was natural for them to complain. Nothing less was expected by those who had organized the event; indeed, the interns who had arranged for the seating and distributed the press passes would have been stunned by anything approaching a compliment. When the frequent interruptions led to a substantial delay in the proceedings, few were surprised. Nevertheless, every effort was made to accommodate them. Additional chairs were brought in for the latecomers, and the proffered urns of coffee and pitchers of chilled water were refilled at a near constant rate. Ornate chandeliers hung high above their heads, providing the requisite amount of light. The cameramen complained anyway, but to no avail. That the room might have been graced by natural light was never a consideration. The six massive windows were wired shut for security purposes, and draped in flowing burgundy curtains that perfectly matched the color of the carpet. Above the sparkling crystal chandeliers, a forgotten pair of star-shaped balloons drifted absently across the gilded ceiling. Although the walls were missing the usual procession of paintings, they were replaced, and perhaps surpassed, by towering marble pillars in the Corinthian order.
For the most part, they agreed that the usual trappings of power were in evidence. What the room was clearly lacking, though, was space. They were wedged tightly against one another, and the shared discomfort was noticed by all. As the hearing progressed, however, the vocal complaints began to subside. Soon they were scribbling furiously and shooting pointed glares at those who continued to talk. Finally, the hushed whispers faded away completely, and they listened with rapt attention to the man who was currently holding court, standing before a backdrop of his seated peers.
“Today I believe we have reached a consensus among some of the most respected and influential people in Washington, including those whose input is vital to the president’s decision-making process. I am fully confident that he will react favorably to many of the conclusions the committee has reached this afternoon. I’ll take one more question…I see you fidgeting over there, Susan. Let’s have it.”
A small peel of laughter rippled through the assembled crowd of print and television reporters as the CNN correspondent blushed slightly and posed her question to the man behind the podium. “Senator Levy,